How care homes can be the solution to isolation and loneliness

The last 20 months have truly highlighted the detrimental effects that isolation and loneliness can have on the elderly. Figures show that 1.4 million people in the UK, aged 55 or older, experience loneliness, with almost 500,000 going five or six days without seeing or speaking to anyone at all.

A professional care setting, such as a care home, recognises the differences between loneliness and isolation. It is possible to be surrounded by people and yet feel lonely just as it is possible to be isolated but not feel alone. Elderly care can bring welcome relief to both loneliness and isolation.

 

The causes of loneliness in the elderly

For those who are not receiving residential, respite, or nursing care, numerous factors lead to the experience of loneliness. Modern life sees families less likely to remain in one place for their working lives and so it is common for elderly relatives to see their family being spread across the UK and beyond. Other events that result in loneliness include:

  • Retirement and losing touch with work colleagues
  • The passing away of a spouse
  • The death of close friends
  • A lack of mobility that prevents trips out

With the loss of those that are close, it is easy for people to find that their grief and bereavement leaves them not wanting to socialise. By the time people have been through the grieving process, it is easy to suddenly find that they are alone.

 

The impact of loneliness

When facing loneliness, there is an impact on both the physical and mental health of the elderly. Reports show that an elderly person living alone is 50% more likely to visit A&E and far more likely to need to visit their GP. Some of the health issues triggered by loneliness include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Dementia

Regardless of age, loneliness has been shown to have numerous detrimental effects on mental health. These include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sleep problems
  • Increased levels of stress

How care homes can help

A care home, such as St Michael’s Care, is able to help those who are experiencing loneliness and isolation by engaging with residents on a regular basis. This may be through the daily care and medication assistance they require, but also via a diversified range of activities and events with other residents.

Our well-trained, experienced and passionate staff are aware of the physical and social needs of a resident, often more so than the individual, and so are there to promote companionship and stimulation. These needs can be catered for by providing:

A community feel

Living in a care home provides a sense of community and belonging. Residents can, of course, take time out to themselves, but there are also lots of opportunities in the communal lounges to become part of the community. At St Michael's, residents enjoy daily activities in the spacious garden room or come together to watch a movie in the Chapel theatre. Not only do residents form new friendships amongst each other, but also with staff, who love getting to know each and every one of our residents.

 

Activities and events

A care home such as St Michaels ensures that there's always something new to keep residents entertained. Events teams take the time to get to know residents and understand what they may enjoy taking part in. Learning a new skill, or revisiting an old hobby, can be a great boost in terms of mental and physical wellbeing. Activities such as joining a craft and painting session, enjoying a live singing performance in the multifunction garden room or simply a walk along the beach to take in the fresh sea air are all great ways to keep residents mentally and physically active.

 

Family visits

Care homes understand the importance of being able to see family. Although residents go on to form meaningful friendships, family visits are always encouraged too. This is of benefit to the residents, but also brings peace of mind to family members who can see the lifestyle that their loved ones have. Our activities team encourage residents to invite loved ones over for family events, such as home-movies in the in-house theatre, or simply quality time over an afternoon tea. At St Michael's we are committed to creating a fulfilling life experience for each resident here.

 

For more information about the services we provide or to check availability, please call us on  01843 653 153 or email admin@stmichaelscare.org.


Coming out of the pandemic – how have care homes adapted to the ‘new normal’?

The care home sector was presented with an unprecedented challenge when COVID-19 hit in February 2020. As part of the wider national lockdown, all care homes had to close their doors to external visitors as well as rapidly evolving their internal hygiene procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. Over a year later, as the vaccination programme continues to roll out at pace across the UK, and life begins to return to some form of normal, care homes across the country are opening their doors again to facilitate visits from family and friends - something which many of their residents have sorely missed - as well as welcoming new residents into their communities. But with the pandemic still a present challenge, how have care homes like Oakwood House in Norwich adapted to the ‘new normal’ and what procedures are in place to keep residents, staff and visitors safe?

Ongoing use of PPE

Along with increased cleaning and hygiene measures, the ongoing use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has become an essential part of life for care homes in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and one of the main ways that care homes have had to adapt. Full PPE - including gloves, visors, face masks and aprons - is provided for all care workers, and all visitors are required to wear a face mask and use a hand sanitiser before entering the home. The use of PPE is likely to be something that continues to be used for the foreseeable future, so the team at Oakwood House have ensured that they have a plentiful supply that is regularly replenished.

Swift vaccination uptake

Care home residents were one of the first groups to be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when the vaccination programme began in January ’21. Care homes acted swiftly to facilitate the uptake of the vaccine, meaning that the majority of care home residents had received both vaccinations by March, and are fully prepared for additional boosters planned for later in the year. Care home staff have also been offered the vaccine, adding an extra level of protection for residents and peace of mind for their families.

Keeping the lines of communication open

In line with the latest government guidance, care homes are now able to allow relatives to visit their loved ones via in-room visits with up to five named visitors being allowed per resident (no more than two at a time), as well as external visits with those same five visitors also being permitted. However, many care homes have introduced different ways that residents can keep in touch with their friends and family - either via offering different methods of visitation or other forms of communication. Oakwood House has established several COVID safe family meeting rooms as well as socially distanced outdoor meeting spaces, and digital communication methods - such as video calls - are also still very much on the agenda should physical visits not be possible.

Robust infection control measures

Infection control strategies have always been present in care homes, however, the outbreak of COVID-19 meant that hygiene and cleaning practices had to be intensified which required all care home staff to receive training to ensure they could carry out these stringent procedures. As part of current infection control measures, care homes regularly test all staff and residents for COVID-19 in line with the government guidelines and also ask that visitors take a lateral flow test prior to entering the home. The combination of regular testing, robust hygiene practices and the use of PPE - including screens where required - has allowed care homes to reintroduce services, which were previously prohibited during lockdown, such as hairdressers, chiropodists and external entertainers. Some homes - such as Oakwood House - continued to provide these services throughout the various lockdowns, but at the peak of the restrictions, they were conducted by staff.

New introductions

As part of their infection control measures, care homes have also had to adapt how they welcome new residents, with many homes implementing a form of quarantine to keep existing residents safe. At Oakwood House, new residents spend the first 10 days in a safe quarantine area within the home (receiving all the care they need from the friendly care staff) before being tested for COVID-19 and then moving into the main home.

Looking ahead to the ‘new normal’

As we’ve seen, care homes have had to implement many changes across their services in order to adapt to a post-COVID world. However, with lockdown restrictions set to lift further on 21st June, the outlook for care homes is looking bright. Although the wearing of facemasks and regular testing may continue to be part of life for the foreseeable future, the ‘new normal’ will bring lots of benefits for care home residents and their relatives. Family visits will become easier and more frequent, and residents can continue to enjoy their regular activities whilst catching up with their friends within the community (as well as staff), offering lots of opportunities for social interaction. Meaning that the care homes’ social and events calendar will once again be full to the brim of activities and celebrations to keep residents active, content and safe.

Sources: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/visiting-care-homes-during-coronavirus/update-on-policies-for-visiting-arrangements-in-care-homes